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San Miguel County is one of the 64 counties in the U.S. state of Colorado. It has a population of approximately 8,000 residents and its county seat is Telluride, CO. The county is named for the San Miguel River. Prostitution activity has historically been an issue in the City of Telluride and the greater county area since at least the late 1890s, when Telluride was home to what locals called, “Popcorn Alley.” Popcorn Alley’s name comes from the sound of slamming doors locals heard when sex buyers would enter and exit the street’s brothels. Among the more serious issues related to the county’s commercial sex market is the sex trafficking of adults and minors.
In effort to combat the local commercial sex market, demand reduction tactics have been implemented in the county. For example, in June 2022, local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies conducted a two-day web-based operation focused on identifying and arresting individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money in and around the San Miguel and Mesa County region. As a part of this large-scale multi-jurisdictional undercover operation, highly trained investigators from the San Miguel Sheriff’s Office, Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Grand Junction Police Department, Palisade Police Department, 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) posted decoy child sex trafficking ads on several websites, social media sites, and applications. The investigation resulted in the arrest of eight individuals who had attempted to sexually exploit children or engage in prostitution as a part of this operation.
During the investigation, deputies with the SMCSO arrested a 40-year-old Telluride man who had allegedly exchanged 270 text messages between June 8, 2022 and June 9, 2022, with law enforcement members posing as “a mother prostituting her 13- and 14-year-old girls”. According to reports, in these text exchanges, the offender allegedly arranged to have one of the girls transported from Grand Junction to Telluride for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. Upon his arrest, the offender was found with $2,000 in cash. He was detained on suspicion of soliciting child prostitution, a class-3 felony; the class-4 felonies of internet sexual exploitation of a child; internet luring of a child; contributing to the delinquency of a minor; attempted sexual assault, and cyber crime, a class-5 felony. The offender was freed on a $60,000 bond following his arrest. The identities and images of arrested offenders were released by authorities and included in reports by local media outlets.
- San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office
- Mesa County Sheriff’s Office
- Grand Junction Police Department
- Palisade Police Department
- 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office
- Colorado Bureau of Investigation (CBI)
- Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- Telluride Man Arrested in FBI Sex Predator Operation
- https://www.montrosepress.com/telluride-man-arrested-in-multi-agency-sting-soliciting-child-prostitution (2022)
- https://www.nbc11news.com/2022/06/13/seven-men-arrested-undercover-internet-sex-predator-sting-operation/ (2022)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking: